A few years ago ago I lived in a small town in the South West of England. It was a place I lived for some time although I never came to think of as home. It was a place of in between’s.
And that was exactly how I felt too.
In the evenings I would take my dog for a walk. It was always early evening and a time of people coming home from work. It was a time of homes filling with light and warmth – meals being prepared and eaten, televisions flickering in the corners of lamp-lit rooms, and an over arching feeling of people coming together; of families returning to their source.
There was one house which always caught my eye. A tall Victorian terrace house, whose kitchen was on the basement level. Looking through the window into that kitchen you could see a wooden table, with chairs seated all around it. A soft lit lamp cast yellow-gold shadows over a wine bottle, a teapot, the pictures on the wall and a fireplace at the far end of the room.
It spoke of home to me in so many ways, and articulated a need in me for a sense of belonging, which that room represented so pertinently.
I saw security, routine, ritual – the everyday minutiae and magnitude of life all beautifully captured in that one ordinary domestic scene.
When I became a mother, that idea of home, and what home meant occupied my thoughts a great deal. It meant looking back towards my own childhood, remembering what mattered to me then, in terms of what there was, but also, and perhaps harder and more complex to define; what was missing from it too.
In becoming a family I have thought about what being a family means to me – and what I want it to mean for my children. And in doing so the words I keep returning to, like a mantra are ritual and routine.
It wasn’t so long ago that I was a someone who was all about the ritual and rarely the routine. The former seeming so more dramatic, important, cooler.
Routine by comparison seemed so dull, and in truth I was fearful of it; it seemed to speak of entrenched habit but without feeling, of being trapped and in many ways being lonely and unhappy.
But as time went by and my inner wisdom grew a little wiser, and I became alongside that a little more reflective of my own naive follies – my thoughts around those two words began to change.
I began to yearn for the sanctuary of routine – suggesting to me then, as it rightly does anyway – belonging, safety and commitment. To know that whilst the world moves around you, changeable, unpredictable and progressive – those small cyclical aspects of your life that you return to again and again, can be the very things that keep you grounded, anchored and centered. In short, the very things that keep you safe.
And, in turn, that understanding and acceptance of the word, it’s reappraisal – showed me that without routine – ritual alone is a shallow and essentially meaningless pursuit. The two words need each other to make meaning.
Purpose being given meaning, and meaning given purpose.
With the time of Samhain around us, and the longer, darker nights here for the winter ahead, it seems to be the best time to be thinking about these thoughts and feelings around the ideas of home and family.
Having spent this rare, long wonderful summer beneath the open skies as much as possible, it is now the time to go small, to return to our home, lighting fires, bringing in wood, wellies by the back door and scarves on the hooks. Knowing that we will spend more time together here at home, it seems right to learn, gather and find what rituals and routines are important to us as a family, and to embroider these little personal ways within the patchwork of our winter days.
So that our days, however beautifully ordinary and imperfect, can have a meaning of us as a family, in all the ways we are.